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Plein Air Painting Progress Report: Leaps and Bounds!

Oil Painting of Old Boat "Pompano", Nick's Restaurant, Basin Bayou, FLI am starting to see in color.  That may sound strange, but the fact is that most of the time in my normal everyday activity, I hardly pay attention to color.  When I was focusing on figure drawing, I occasionally used color, but for the most part I was focused on line, shape, and value, usually rendering the whole piece just using a black-white value scale. Now that I am painting again, I am noticing for example, when a white railing is picking up the blue of the sky, or how intense a green becomes when it is contrasted with red.  I am finding that much of what I think I am seeing as different tones of a color are actually the same color which looks different depending on what color is next to it.  I am particularly challenged by all the greens I see, when landscape painting.  If I try to mix an exact shade of green, it often seems muddy compared to what I actually see.  Who knew, that Einstein’s theory that everything is relative applies to painting as well as nuclear physics, that the better way to achieve a color is to find the color next to it which gives it the quality I want.  Resisting the temptation to launch into that as a metaphor for life, I’ll instead move on to my adventures in plein air painting over the past week.  Last week we painted at Nick’s Restaurant, and I bemoaned the fact that I know very little about boats.  The next day I decided to take another run at the featured boat, using my photo references, and came up with the piece at top right.  It was the little paprika-colored spots of rust washing out from the old nails in the hull, that gave the greens and turquoise the punch I wanted.  So I wafted a little of that color into the foreground grasses too.

Oil painting study, Bayou Grass, Point Washington, FLThis week is the largest of the spring-break tourist weeks in the beach resort communities of Panama City Beach, Seagrove Beach, and Destin, FL.  So when the announcement came that the plein air painters would be meeting at the docks again in Destin, I knew the drive would take all the fun out of the adventure, so I opted to paint from my dock in my back yard.  I had thought I would be painting my view of the creek leading into Tucker Bayou, but when I looked upstream, the color of the bayou grasses intrigued me.  My initial 6″ x 6″ study, left, did nothing for me by way of planning my painting, but rather served more like a singer doing la-la-La-LA-La-la-la scales to warm up her voice before performing.

I needed a warm-up!  The temperature was less than 40 and the wind was chilly.  But it was a clear spring day with bright light.  I roughed in the composition and then went to work on the trees at the edge of the Bayou.  The spring gold-greens of the new leaves contrasted with the rich, dark pines and the shadows underneath.  I resisted the impulse to paint the shadows a colorless dark value, which has the potential to suck the life out of a painting.  Instead I darkened my green shadows with a touch of the same deep red I used to tint the pink flowering trees in my distant neighbor’s yard.  I stuggled with the grasses, because the shiny highlights were picking up every color of the palette.  Uncertain whether I was just making a mudpie, I plowed onward through the painting, until I was satisfied I had achieved an approximate similarity to the colors I was seeing.  My two cats initially were scared by my unusual activity on the dock, but they grew braver throughout the 2 hours, wrapping their tails around my legs as I scratched some final textures and highlights into the grasses and the tree trunks.  Upon completion, I stood my painting up against a piling and stepped back from it only to have a bitter wind gust blow it onto its face, requiring repair where it had landed on an edge of a dock board.  Remembering the worm crawling across my finished painting two weeks ago, I decided that paintings are not really finished until restored from an inevitable mishap at the very end.

Oil Painting of Bayou Grass, Point Washington, FL

The day before yesterday I was excited to find a delivery frames on my package stand as I entered my driveway, so even though it was late, I spent the next couple of hours framing my earlier paintings done in November and December of last year, when I first resumed oil painting after a 30-year hiatus.  Looking at them, I realized that I am growing by leaps and bounds.  The rate of my improvement surprises me.  I thought I would progress more slowly, and even be tempted to give up, because oil painting so intimidated me, no doubt from my tortured efforts during and shortly after college.  I find I am enjoying the time limitation of plein air painting, which while still allowing for tortured effort, does not allow it to continue for very long, with only a two hour window before the light changes so much that further attempts at capturing an impression are not worthwhile.

I continue to play with my photography.  I am learning about photo-editing, taking a class in Photoshop Elements from Jackie Ward at Northwest Florida State College, South Walton Center.  She is teaching us what Photoshop can do.  It’s difficult for me to remember.  My poor brain may be overloaded, trying to run my business, my day-job, the one that pays the bills, while I try to learn more about photography and painting.  I still enjoy the easy editing that can be done with Snapseed App on my iPhone.  Yesterday I paddled my canoe on the Bayou with a dear friend, a fellow photographer.  You can’t take a bad picture at sunset!  Most of my editing of my iPhoneography consists of simply straightening the horizon line and perhaps a little cropping, but I had some fun dramatizing and saturating the photo below.

Photograph, Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, Joan Vienot

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Painting Plein Air at Nick’s

Oil Painting of Boats at Nicks Restaurant
My view of the boats at Nicks

Today the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters painted at Nick’s Restaurant on the north side of the Choctawhatchee Bay.  When I first arrived, one other painter was already setting up.  I walked around the derelict boats and dinghies decorating the grounds, following the Bay beach to the inlet and then up around the aged structure of the restaurant itself, shooting photos with my iPhone as I went.  A painting could be made from everywhere I looked.  I settled on the old boats lined up in the front yard. By the time I had gotten my easel set-up and made a preliminary pencil-on-paper sketch to try to lay-out my composition, about 10 to 12 more artists had arrived.

Most boats around here are white, but the boat in the foreground was red, and that color was the element that interested me.  I painted nearly every other part of the picture first, saving the red boat for last.  But as I worked, I cursed my choice of subject matter, having once again chosen to paint boats, which I know almost nothing about.  My biggest struggle was with the shape of the boat in the background.  The cabin morphed into an odd shaped roof over what I presume might have been sleeping quarters, but which now sported a gaping hole, a mate to the hole in the deck at the back of the boat.  Its one redeeming feature, besides its mass, was the turquoise color of the bottom.

Boats at Nick's

A tiny sliver of the Bay on the far left, and a nondescript structure in the background were the only hints at the location, but anyone who has eaten at Nick’s will recognize the boats.  The sandy beach was dotted with little grasses and vines, and I took liberty with that part of the painting, bringing in a few taller grasses, to break up the large area of plain beach, and to repeat a few reds.

When we lined up our paintings for the critique before lunch, I again was amazed and overwhelmed by the talent in the group.  One of the artists made a comment that caught my curiosity.  He was expressing frustration about a car pulling up and blocking his view, after he had already mixed all his colors and was ready to paint.  I have never approached my painting that way, instead mixing my colors as I go.  I may have to watch him paint sometime, to see how that works.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Story by Lori Ceier, on www.waltonoutdoors.com

Oil Painting of The Al-Lin in Destin Harbor

Bringing our surroundings to life a natural process for South Walton artist Joan Vienot

Lori Ceier, Walton Outdoors

http://www.waltonoutdoors.com/bringing-our-surroundings-to-life-a-natural-for-south-walton-artist-joan-vienot/

 

Joan Vienot paints plein air along the Destin Harbor. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Joan Vienot paints plein air along the Destin Harbor. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Point Washington resident Joan Vienot is on the path to fulfilling a lifelong desire of becoming a professional artist. After 45 years in the aquatic industry and only occasionally investing time, Vienot is now dedicating two days a week to creating fine art.

Growing up in the small town of Brighton, Colorado, Vienot always enjoyed drawing and painting, and knew at a very young age it was something she wanted to pursue.

“The first publication of my art was when I was seven years old. My second-grade teacher asked the class to illustrate and write stories about astronaut John Glenn circling the earth. Many of my classmates’ stories were printed in the local newspaper, but mine was the only drawing published. I was so embarrassed that my story didn’t merit publication, not realizing how special it was for my drawing to be recognized,” said Vienot.

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Recent work from journey to North Carolina. Photo courtesy JoanVienot.com.
Recent work from journey to North Carolina. Photo courtesy JoanVienot.com.

Vienot’s passion for creating has now fully evolved into lush, colorful interpretations of our surroundings. Landscapes, figure drawings, still life and photography are just a few of the mediums Vienot has facilitated to create remarkable works of art.

Be on the lookout for Vienot’s work in local galleries in the near future. Meanwhile, you just might find her plein air painting one of our scenic landscapes in and around Walton County.

Vienot has a BA in Fine Art from the University of Northern Colorado. In addition to teaching art to high school students, she is involved as a volunteer for the arts in Walton County, serving on the board of directors for the Cultural Arts Alliance and co-chairing the A+Art Committee for CAA, which showcases member artists’ work at the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College.

To learn more about Joan Vienot and her work, go to joanvienot.com.

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Great Paintout at Grayton Beach

On Saturday I joined at least 16 other painters at Grayton Beach State Park, in Grayton Beach, Florida, to participate in the local effort for the Oil Painters of America 8th annual Great Paintout.  It was my first try at plein air oil painting in perhaps as much as 30 years, but something I have been intending to do for a long time.  I have occasionally painted outdoors using watercolors or sketched with pencil or ink, but the last time I remember painting the landscape with oils, plein air, was while on a camping vacation in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1978.  That day, so long ago, was memorable for being so hot and buggy.  By contrast, Saturday was the perfect day for plein air painting, being shaded by the park pavilion, and virtually bug-free.

So what’s the big deal about plein air painting, you may wonder.  En plein air is French for “in open air”, a phrase used to describe painting an outdoors scene “from life”, while actually looking at it, in the often changing light and weather conditions.  It requires intense concentration and awareness, and is much more challenging than painting from a photographic reference in a studio.  It appeals to me in much the same way that figure drawing appeals to me, because time is a limiting factor, so one must work fairly quickly, finishing or very nearly finishing the painting in one session.  For that reason, and because I felt so out of practice, I chose to paint on small 8″ x 10″ canvas boards.  I managed to make a passable effort on two boards.

To a certain extent, this was a trial run for me, to see how my equipment worked, and to start remembering how to paint.  I used just 3 brushes — two to paint with and a third one to sign my name, and a palette knife to scratch out some bush branches.  The brush I used for most of both paintings was a Winsor-Newton #6 round, sable, I think.  It worked better than the stiff bristle brushes I used a month ago in my first effort at returning to oils, in the workshop I blogged about on September 9. My new Coulter System easel and palette/box that I purchased last summer worked like a charm.  I used my 35-year old Grumbacher “Pre-tested” and Rembrandt oil paints from my days doing demonstrations as a high school art teacher.  My oil painting medium is about that old too, and while the paints are still good, I’m pretty sure the medium is degraded.  The paintings I did Saturday are dry today, one day later, but the painting I did a month ago in the workshop, in which I used more medium, is still a little sticky.

The sand dunes at Grayton Beach are made of  sand is so fine that it crunches underfoot like dry snow, and it even looks like snow in the bright sunlight, thanks to the clear crystals of quartz that make up the majority of its composition.  The scrubby oak bushes and half-buried scrub pines round over the tops of the dunes, shaped away from the Gulf of Mexico by the salty seabreeze.  Palmetto bushes and dune marsh grasses dot the lower dunes, fringed this time of year by various yellow wildflowers that some of us locals refer to collectively as goldenrod.  I never got around to painting as much as I would like to have, never adding in the finer details of shadows and sea oats.  I might go back in and put in those details, but the photos I have posted here are exactly as I finished on Saturday morning.

After we painted for about 3 hours, we all got together and looked at each others’ works, and we ooo’d and ah’d before giving feedback.  It was an excellent critique, with the masters of the craft commenting on areas of paintings that worked well, and areas that were challenging, and even discussing compositional tricks, like pointing out places where something in a painting might need to recede, made difficult by being light in value.  (Typically, light shapes and colors tend to advance, and darker forms recede, in a picture plane.  That can be overcome by muting or graying the lighter colors, shapes tending to become less bright as they recede, the way that we see things.)  Everyone was kind to me, not being critical at all, but I admit that I gave fair warning, protecting my vulnerability by explaining that I had just returned to oil painting again about a month ago, and that this was my 2nd effort in 30 years.  That was a fairly clear request to cut me some slack, I think.  The regular plein air painters go out every Wednesday, so if I start coming regularly, I’m sure they will feel more free to make helpful comments, and I will not be so scared to hear them.

Shane McDonald

Some of the artists who were there have their work online:

Becky Perrott

Charlotte Arnold

Rosalyn O’Grady

Margaret Ann Garrett

Jeanette Brooks Sherritze

Nancy Nichols Williams

Melody Bogle

Velda Dougherty

Shane McDonald

Matt Craven

And I wish I had the names and websites of the others there — if you read my blog and know the others, please email me with their names, and I’ll include them.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

 

 

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Artist’s Statement

I have added an Artist’s Statement to my Bio page.  I will be exhibiting a few pieces of my work in the  A+Art Committee member exhibit at Okaloosa Walton State College next spring.  The committee functions under the umbrella of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (Florida), selecting artists and organizing shows in the lobby area of the South Walton OWSC business office about 4 or 5 times a year.  This year was our first year, and we decided to avoid any appearance of self-promotion this first year.  But several members of the committee are accomplished artists, so we decided to have a show of committee members’ works for a couple of months next year.

Following is my Artist’s Statement, at least for today, 11/14/11.  No doubt it will evolve.

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Joan Vienot – Artist’s Statement

The greatest pleasure for me as an artist is the capture of the present moment, a little piece of Now.  The challenge is greatest when the subject is the human figure, where the length of a pose is limited by the live model’s ability to remain motionless for any duration. Very little time is available for retractions or corrections, so my marks on the paper have to be certain and authoritative.  Every pose is a challenge of my mastery.  Similarly, plein air painting requires intense focus and present moment awareness in order to execute a scene before the light changes radically.  In both cases, the subject must be portrayed in fairly general terms, with only enough detail to lend unique identity and a bit of atmosphere.  I rarely do anything more than minimal correcting, or perhaps heightening of contrast, when I get back to my studio, preferring to let my interpretation of the moment stand on its own.  My approach might result in what some may call mistakes in proportion or perspective, but I think accuracy should be subordinate to my effort to convey the essence of the subject in a short amount of time.

When time is so fleeting that I could never capture something in either dry or wet media, then I resort to my camera to produce a photograph, which of course records the quintessential moment in time.

My favorite subject for drawing is the human figure.  People’s lives and experiences create lines on their faces and sags on their bodies, and their posture bears witness to their youth or to their years.  The nude figure in particular, with the façade of clothing removed, reveals the essence of a person’s physical existence and might even hint at her spirit.  Most of my figure drawings are of females simply because most of the models I’ve had opportunity to draw are female.  My figure drawings are very simply my personal expression of the beauty and complexity of the human form and my efforts toward mastery of that expression.